Agriculture

Sugar Mill Owners Could Face FIRs as Deadline for Clearing Sugarcane Dues Passes

According to data provided by the cane commissioner’s office in Lucknow, pending sugarcane dues for the 2018-19 season stand at Rs 6,323 crore as of September 6.

New Delhi: As the deadline for clearing sugarcane dues set by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath has come and gone, mill owners in Uttar Pradesh face the prospect of FIRs being registered against them.

In Bijnor, where pending sugarcane dues are around Rs 500 crore, the district administration has issued notices to sugar mills in the district warning them that if dues are not cleared within seven days, the administration will register FIRs against mill owners and senior management, Times of India reported.

According to data provided by the cane commissioner’s office in Lucknow, pending sugarcane dues for the 2018-19 season stand at Rs 6,323 crore as of September 6. This is almost a week beyond the deadline, August 31, set by Adityanath for sugar mills to clear the dues.

Also read: Rs 6,000 Crore Export Subsidy to Help Clear Rs 10,000 Crore Pending Sugarcane Dues

Farmers in various parts of western Uttar Pradesh, where sugarcane is the primary crop, have been protesting. In Meerut, farmers protested at the sugarcane building leading to a skirmish with the police. Muzzafarngar and Saharanpur too have seen farmers take to the streets to demand pending dues and an agitation continues in Bijnor.

According to the law, sugarcane dues ought to be cleared by sugar mills within 14 days of taking delivery. If payment is delayed, sugar mills are required to pay an interest of 15% per annum for the period of the delay in addition to the principal amount.

However, none of these rules are followed or enforced in UP. Farmers are very rarely paid within 14 days, as the law requires and sugar mills never pay any interest to the farmers on account of delay.

Before the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, Narendra Modi had promised that if the BJP is voted to power it will ensure that sugarcane dues are cleared within 14 days. “My sugarcane farmer does the hard work. Everybody is growing fat by eating sugar. The sugar mill owners are fat, but my farmer has nothing to gain. My government in UP will clear dues within 14 days,” he had said.

Also read: Sugarcane Farmers Caught in a Complex Web of Negligence in Eastern UP

That, however, has proven to be easier said than done. The BJP in Uttar Pradesh has failed to ensure timely payment of sugarcane dues in both the seasons that it has been in power. It has also failed to enforce the rule that requires sugar mills to pay interest to farmers in case of delays.

The Centre recently announced a Rs 6,000 crore export subsidy to sugar mills to help clear sugarcane dues across the country. The payment, the Centre, said would be made directly to the farmers.

It remains to be seen how successful this move would be as the sugar prices in the global market remain below what it costs sugar mills in India to produce sugar.

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